Thursday, December 27, 2007

African American Pianist & Professor William H. Chapman Nyaho Born Dec. 28, 1958

[ASA: William Chapman Nyaho, Piano Music by Composers of African Descent;
MSR Classics (2008)]

William H. Chapman Nyaho was born in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 28, 1958. He was to become a virtuoso pianist, gifted professor of music and dedicated collector and editor of piano music of the African Diaspora. When he was only ten months old his parents returned to their native Ghana with him. He grew up there and graduated from Ghana's Achimota School after studying piano with John Barham. Nyaho received his B.A. in Music from Oxford University in the U.K. After studies in piano at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland, and with Henri Gautier, he earned a Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Nyaho studied with David Renner at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Doctoral degree in Music.

Following a four-year residency as a North Carolina Visiting Artist, Nyaho taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1991-2002. He has performed as a soloist in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and North America. He also plays chamber music as part of the Nyaho/Garcia Duo. His Web site for both solo and duo activities is:

The CD
Senku: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent, Musicians Showcase Recordings 1091 (2003) is comprised of solo piano works by eight composers:

Joshua Uzoigwe (b. 1946), Nigeria
Oswald Russell (b. 1933), Jamaica
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004), United States
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), United Kingdom
Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972), United States
Gamal Abdel-Rahim (1924-1988), Egypt
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), Canada
Gyimah Labi (b. 1950), Ghana

The liner notes are by the poet Maya Angelou, a mentor to the pianist. Brief audio samples of all eight tracks can be heard at Nyaho's website. Donald Rosenberg wrote a review of Senku for the March 2004 issue of Gramophone, One theme but many styles, all illuminated by some fine playing. He writes that "senku" is a Ghanian word referring to a keyboard instrument. The review ends with these remarks:

“The humanity of the music and Nyaho's gripping performances kept my ears glued to this disc. Let's hope the pianist continues to explore - and record - more such commanding repertoire.”

The Nyaho/Garcia Duo is committed to performing music of composers of African or Hispanic heritage, as well works of contemporary, American and women composers. The Duo has a recording to its credit as well: Aaron Copland: Music for Two Pianos, Centaur 2405 (1998). Nyaho's website explains:

Classical Magazine wrote then that the duo, 'form a perfect match in their style of playing, their tone, and in their genuine feeling for and understanding of the Copland pieces... This CD will be the standard against which any future performances of these dances will be measured.'"

Nyaho's website describes the pianist's active role as pianist in residence:

“Nyaho has served as a guest lecturer on piano technique and on specific composers, offered numerous master classes and specialized activities for students, and traveled into countless schools to wring unexpectedly beautiful music from dubious cafeteria pianos.”

An example of the symposiums in which Nyaho participates is Africa Meets Asia, which was held at the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing, China in October 2005. He performed both solo and duo piano works during the program. The Jamaican choreographer Garth Fagan, Founder and Artistic Director of Garth Fagan Dance, an innovative dance company, choreographed music from Nyaho's CD Senku for a dance and live piano performance October 17, 2006 at New York's Joyce Theater. It was repeated in the dance company's home town of Rochester, New York.

The lack of sheet music for students and performers is a major reason music by Black composers has so few concert performances and recordings. A great deal of music exists, and Nyaho has played a pioneering role in making it available. He has compiled and edited an unprecedented five-volume anthology Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora. The music is organized by skill level, from beginning to advanced. Oxford University Press published Volumes 1 and 2 in March 2007. The rest will follow in 2008.

AfriClassical invited Nyaho to comment for this birthday tribute. He told us Volumes 3 & 4 of the Oxford University Press anthology will be available in the early part of 2008, and Volume 5 and the clothbound edition, which consists of all five volumes, will be published later in 2008. Nyaho added:

"My new CD ASA will be out in early 2008. It consists of music by Fred Onovwerosuoke, Florence Price, Halim El Dabh, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Isaac Roux, Amadeo Roldan y Gardes, Alain-Pierre Pradel, and Ludovic Lamothe. I will be Visiting Artist/Teacher at Williamette University for the Spring 2008. I will be in South Africa in the early part of Spring 2008 where I will be judging the prestigious UNISA International Piano Competition. I have also been invited to be on the Summer faculty of Adamant Music School in Vermont and also Interlochen. I am truly grateful."

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